Butler County Times Gazette
  • Leavenworth High School athlete hopes to make mark at Junior Olympics

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    • "Anything will help"

      Leavenworth High School senior-to-be Willie Morrison is trying to raise money that would allow him to compete in the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics at the end of the month in Houston. Donat...

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      "Anything will help"

      Leavenworth High School senior-to-be Willie Morrison is trying to raise money that would allow him to compete in the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics at the end of the month in Houston. Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/7lbmbs.

  • The Leavenworth High School shot put throwing ring's farthest white line registers at 60 feet. But, past the gravel and the wooden barrier at the end of the ring is a faded white line in the grass.
    Senior thrower Willie Morrison said he typically avoids the Leavenworth ring if he can help it. The ring is too short for the three-time state champion. He's the person responsible for the extra line in the grass 65 feet away, one foot more than Morrison's personal best that he recorded last week.
    After a first-place finish in both the shot put and discus Friday at the USA Track and Field Regional meet in Arkansas, Morrison punched his second-straight ticket to the USATF Junior Olympics in Houston.
    The only problem is the real cost of that ticket.
    When he qualified last year, Morrison said his parents took out a loan to make sure he was able to compete. But, after his aunt's death in the Phillipines earlier this year, he said his family is not able to pay for the week-long stay at a hotel and the gas to drive to Houston and back.
    Morrison has taken his fundraising efforts online to GoFundMe.com to try to reach his goal of $500 needed for the trip.
    As the No. 13 best thrower in the nation in his age level, he's not attending for the scenery. After turning in a record-breaking year at LHS, ending with a state title in both discus and shot put, Morrison has been training this summer to ensure a big performance in Houston. He said he expects to bring home a title.
    "I'm a more consistent thrower," Morrison said. "A lot of people will have that far throw that might be ahead of mine, but the rest of their throws will be lower than all of mine. They had that one good throw this year that put them at a higher ranking than me."
    Leavenworth's discus coach, Carl Wilk, said Morrison's approach to training sets him apart.
    "He's got a great work ethic," Wilk said. "And he brings a great attitude. He'll have bad days, but he doesn't let it get to him. ... It's been really a great pleasure to coach him, he lifts and he practices. We talk about the finer points of things and he tries to make those adjustments. He's just a great kid to coach."
    When Morrison joined the Pioneers track and field team as a freshman, Wilk said he immediately knew he had a good thrower on his hands.
    But, when his numbers immediately started growing, Wilk said that was when he realized Morrison was more than just a good thrower.
    "I realized it his freshman year," Wilk said. "He started out throwing at about 105 feet, then he jumped up to like 135 and I kind of knew that something special was going to happen there."
    Page 2 of 2 - As a sophomore, he claimed the state discus title with a throw of 166 feet and 5 inches.
    He said his sophomore state championship gave him even more confidence heading to the state tournament this past season.
    "I kind of knew I was going to win," Morrison said. "Just because last year I won the discus and my marks this year for shot put were really good so I just figured."
    Morrison followed up his sophomore campaign with a dominating performance at the 2014 State championship, winning the shot put titled with a throw of 61 feet and 3.25 inches and the discus title after throwing 176 feet and 11 inches.
    Once he became eligible for recruitment this summer, Morrison said he has been fielding calls from Division I schools around the U.S. eager to sign the incoming senior. Texas A&M, Duke, LSU, Missouri, Nebraska and Arkansas have all reached out to him to throw shot put and discus, but he said he hasn't made a decision.
    With high marks at the Junior Olympics, Morrison said his recruiting status would be elevated even more, and he said he hopes to start receiving calls from more schools on the East and West coasts.
    But, Wilk said he has more goals for Morrison to reach before he gets to college.
    "The goal we'll probably set for this year is to break the 200 (feet) mark," Wilk said. "If he can do that, then he will certainly be within the top 10 throwers in the nation at that point. That's always a barrier that most people try to break."

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